The world in brief: 2 arrested in German migrant smuggling

Police officers take a suspect back to a house during a raid in Garbsen, Germany, on Thursday.
(AP/dpa/Ole Spata)
Police officers take a suspect back to a house during a raid in Garbsen, Germany, on Thursday. (AP/dpa/Ole Spata)

2 arrested in German migrant smuggling

BERLIN -- German police arrested two men Thursday after raids targeting organized migrant smuggling in the country's capital and the northern state of Lower Saxony.

About 260 officers took part in the raids and searches at eight properties in Lower Saxony and another six in Berlin.

The suspects are accused of smuggling more than 200 migrants, most of them Syrians, into the European Union, German news agency dpa reported.

One of the suspects, a 23-year-old man from Berlin, was arrested in Garbsen near Hanover. The other, a 40-year-old man, was placed in custody in Lehrte near Hanover on the basis of an Austrian arrest warrant.

Authorities did not identify the suspects. But security officials alleged the two were part of a group of smugglers, most of them Iraqis, that allegedly brought at least 208 migrants into the EU during a dozen trips between August 2022 and June 2023.

The men are suspected of transporting the migrants in extreme heat and "unsuitable vehicles" and did not give the passengers rest or food, dpa reported.

They allegedly charged $4,357-$5,446 per person.

Madagascar leader on top in vote count

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar -- Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina was on course to win reelection Thursday after a vote boycotted by most opposition candidates and as supporters of his party claimed they were promised money in return for backing him.

With 85% of ballots counted, Rajoelina had received 59.7% of the vote in last week's election, according to the national electoral commission. Such a margin of victory would eliminate the need for a runoff election and give him a third term as leader of the Indian Ocean island of 28 million.

Rajoelina, a former DJ and mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, was president of a post-coup provisional government in 2009-2014. He was elected president in 2019 and gained a degree of notoriety during the coronavirus pandemic by promoting a herbal drink as a cure for COVID-19.

The lead up to the Nov. 16 election was marked by protests against Rajoelina led by opposition candidates. Security forces fired tear gas grenades at demonstrators, and two opposition candidates sustained minor injuries. Some polling stations were torched ahead of the election, which was delayed for a week because of the trouble.

Former President Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted by Rajoelina in 2009, was one of 10 opposition candidates who boycotted the election, saying that conditions for a legitimate and fair vote hadn't been met.

Kosovo asks to limit 3 war trial suspects

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- Prosecutors are seeking to restrict visits to three former Kosovo Liberation Army leaders who are on trial in The Hague for war crimes because they allegedly tried to manipulate witnesses and leak confidential testimony.

Former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, Parliament ex-Speaker Kadri Veseli and former lawmaker Rexhep Selimi were all top leaders of the KLA, which waged Kosovo's 1998-99 war for independence from Serbia and are now on trial in the Netherlands.

A document seen by The Associated Press on Thursday showed that prosecutors from the Kosovo Specialist Chambers -- a branch of the Kosovo legal system that was set up at The Hague in part due to fears about witness safety and security -- had found that individuals visiting the three defendants had later approached protected witnesses "attempting to prevent or influence their testimony."

Prosecutors have asked that all visits be restricted except those from family members that will be recorded. They are also seeking to restrict phone calls and written communication and that the defendants be segregated from other inmates.

The three defendants have been in custody since November 2020. Charges against them include murder, torture and persecution allegedly committed across Kosovo and northern Albania from 1998 to September 1999, during and after the war.

Police break up rally for ex-king of Nepal

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- Riot police used batons and tear gas to halt tens of thousands of supporters of Nepal's former king who attempted to march to the center of the capital on Thursday to demand the restoration of the monarchy and the nation's former status as a Hindu state.

The protesters, waving the national flag and chanting slogans supporting former King Gyanendra, gathered on the edge of Kathmandu and attempted to move toward the center of the city. Riot police blocked them, beating them with bamboo batons and firing tear gas and a water cannon. There were minor injuries on both sides.

Authorities had banned protests in key areas of the city prior to the rally.

"We love our king and country more than our lives. Bring back the monarchy. Abolish the republic," the crowd chanted.

Supporters of the former king went to Kathmandu from all over the country to demand the return of the monarchy that was abolished in 2008. They accused the government and political parties of corruption and failed governance.

  photo  Protesters clash with police in a rally Thursday demanding a restoration of Nepal’s monarchy in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP/Niranjan Shrestha)